Highgrove hits Easter with a sense of timing

6 min read
With a trio of Snitzels, including full siblings to Thronum and Summer Passage, Highgrove Stud from Queensland's Darling Downs is set for another successful Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

While pedigree and type are always to the fore at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, it is often timing that plays the most significant role for Highgrove Stud owner, Ron Gilbert.

Highgrove Stud, based at Westbrook just outside of Toowoomba, has had a long and successful connection with the iconic Easter sale and key to that success has been Gilbert ensuring his yearlings are at their peak for the market.

"What dictates my Easter draft to some degree is when the horses are born," he told TDN AusNZ.

"If you have late October and early November foals, which I'm happy to breed because I’d rather have a yearling then miss a year, and there is no guarantee the mare will go back in foal early anyway, then you know they’ll be best suited later in the sales calendar."

"I tend to breed quite later in the season. If you have a November foal, it just doesn’t make the early sales. April is the best time to sell them. You go in to Easter and it's got the reputation of being a high-end sale which it is, you need to take horses relevant to that sale otherwise you do tend to get a bit lost."

"I think that you need a good type at every sale, I don’t think Easter isn't any exception."

Coming off a successful Easter in 2018 when the Darling Downs stud sold five yearlings for an average of $425,000, putting it seventh overall on the vendors' list, Highgrove presents a four-horse draft, three of which are by current Champion Sire, Arrowfield's Snitzel.

Gilbert describes the draft as 'pretty damn good', with a full sister to Group 1 winner Summer Passage and a full brother to Group 2 winning sprinter and now Sun Stud stallion Thronum.

"The Snitzel filly (Lot 290) is a sister to a 2-year-old Group 1 winner and she is a really outstanding individual," he said.

Lot 290 - Snitzel x Subsequent filly

"The two Snitzel colts are as nice as you can breed. I'm very happy with my Easter draft, there is not one which lacks quality, or would tail off."

"The two Snitzel colts are as nice as you can breed. I'm very happy with my Easter draft, there is not one which lacks quality, or would tail off." - Ron Gilbert

Little brother outshines Thronum

Highgrove Stud sold Thronum at this sale in 2015, getting $300,000 for the colt out of imported mare Helena's Secret (USA) (Five Star Day {USA}).

While not wanting to put undue expectations of the younger full sibling, who is Lot 45 this year, Gilbert said in many ways, he was a superior type to his brother.

Lot 45 - Snitzel x Helena's Secret colt

"I feel he's a bit stronger and taller than Thronum. He's a really good individual. Thronum was quite a nice neat colt and he made $300,000, so he was obviously quite good, but this colt is a bit more forward. On type, he's a bit better than Thronum was as a yearling. He's a very good colt," he said.

Highgrove paid US$200,000 for Helena's Secret at the 2011 Keeneland November Sale and she had produced two other winners, with her first foal, All Too Many (USA) (Eskendereya {USA}) having produced a stakes-placegetter already.

Highgrove sold her Sebring filly, now named Secretly, for $400,000 at Easter last year and she has had a couple of trials for Peter and Paul Snowden, while Helena's Secret has also produced a Snitzel colt last spring before visiting I Am Invincible.

Passage to success

Summer Passage, a winner of the G1 Auckland Diamond S, was a $800,000 yearling in 2016, with her full-sister selling for $400,000 to Scott Morrisey last year. From Subsequent (Encosta De Lago), a sister to four stakes winners herself, the latest fllly, Lot 290 is expected to attract plenty of attention.

The other Snitzel colt, Lot 441, is out of stakes-placed mare Emotional Circus (Elusive Quality {USA}), whose dam, Cirque Du Soliel (Danehill {USA}) is a full-sister to star stallion Fastnet Rock.

Highgrove had a fourth Snitzel in the sale, a colt catalogued as Lot 205, but he has been withdrawn,

Lot 441 - Snitzel x Emotional Circus colt

The other member of Highgrove's Stud's draft is Lot 4, a filly by Exceed and Excel out of Fate Rules (Encosta De Lago), a half-sister to Highgrove's most famous graduate, Jet Spur (Flying Spur).

"We bred Jet Spur and this filly is a really lovely type and was a later foal, hence why she is going to Easter. But she's a very athletic, great walking filly," Gilbert said.

"I expect being early in the sale is always a bit of a concern and there are so many horses behind her in the sale which they can miss out on with an early lot."

"But sometimes with the early ones you get better money anyway. I think with the smaller catalogue this year I think Easter will be strong from Lot 1 onwards."

Her older half-sister by Redoute's Choice, Jen Rules, was sold for $500,000 by Highgrove at the 2017 Easter Sale and has looked quite promising for the Snowdens.

Lot 4 - Exceed and Excel x Fate Rules filly

Top-end to keep Easter strong

Overall, Gilbert expects the market to be typically strong at Easter reflecting a preference for top-end yearlings throughout the sales season.

"From previous sales this year, the top end of the market is quite strong and the rest of the market does its best," he said.

"It's certainly not solid at that middle or bottom end, but I just wonder if it ever has been, it's just the top is so strong at the moment, it makes the rest look quite average."

"The sale prices and the median and averages, they just are indicative of the quality of thoroughbred yearling that is being presented."

"The sales company gets the buyers there, the vendors get the horses there and it's all really how good the horses are and what the x-rays are like and all the checks they have to get through. That dictates how solid it is," he said.